Distress and drinking: Cross-cultural connections and contexts

Richard Wilsnack, Arlinda F. Kristjanson, Sharon C. Wilsnack, Perry W. Benson


Wilsnack, R., Kristjanson, A. F., Wilsnack, S. C. & Benson, P. W. (2012). Distress and drinking: Cross-cultural connections and contexts. International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research, 1(1), 79-94. doi: 10.7895/ijadr.v1i1.37 (http://dx.doi.org/10.7895/ijadr.v1i1.37)

Aims: Research on how distress is related to drinking has paid relatively little attention to gender and to cultural differences. This study examines how distress is associated with men’s and women’s drinking cross-culturally.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting/Participants: Surveys of 30,728 women and 24,204 men in 22 countries of the GENACIS project (Gender, Alcohol and Culture: An International Study) provided data on how women’s and men’s mental, interpersonal and work-situational distress are related to their drinking patterns.

Measurements: Analyses examined correlations within surveys, and used hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) to take into account economic development, abstinence rates and distress levels in the populations surveyed.

Findings: We found few associations of drinking patterns with reported stressful work situations. Mental and interpersonal distress had more frequent but geographically scattered associations with men’s and women’s drinking, particularly with quantities consumed. HLM analyses confirmed cross-culturally that drinking tended to increase with psychological and interpersonal distress, but the societal-level variables had few effects.

Conclusions: Distress measures in GENACIS surveys were positively though not powerfully associated with both women's and men's drinking cross-culturally, associations not attributable to societal-level characteristics. The findings indicate a need for better cross-cultural information about the processes by which distress may lead to heavier drinking.


alcohol use; stress-related alcohol use;

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7895/ijadr.v1i1.37


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